Now for something that hits a little closer to home. Maybe it’ll give you some insight into what we bus drivers have to deal with on a daily and oftentimes, hourly basis.
So I was on my fourth or fifth loop last Wednesday when I stopped to pick this guy up.
Actually, this guy is probably OK and not a total asshole, unlike the passenger who’s the inspiration for this post.
So I picked up a guy who gets on the bus and whips out his ID. We have full-fare routes and we have ID routes that passengers who live in certain areas can ride for free with a picture ID. I drive both, but this was a full-fare route so I asked:
“Sir, why are you showing me that?”
He barked, “Isn’t the bus free?”
“No this is a full-fare bus.” He was already a few steps down the aisle but backtracked to the farebox and put in a dollar. The fare is $1.50.
“Sir, do you have fifty cents?
“Why? I ride the bus all the time and it’s always a dollar.”
“No sir. It’s always a dollar-fifty.”
He pulls out some cash and says, “The smallest bill I have is a five. You got change?”
Keep in mind: the bus stop is about twenty-five feet from a major convenience store where he just bought a super-large soft drink (which may or may not be soft anymore); he is by his own admission a frequent rider yet he didn’t know that this wasn’t a free bus; he didn’t know the fare was a buck-fifty, and he didn’t know I don’t make change. Something doesn’t add up.
He turned towards the passengers and announces, “Does anyone have change for a five?”
“Sir, you aren’t allowed to solicit on the bus.” Passengers know that soliciting on the bus is strictly prohibited.
He exploded into a tirade. I’m not soliciting, I’m asking for change. Don’t you know the difference between soliciting and asking? You should be careful before you use four-syllable words.”
Other highly intelligent passengers started to join in. “Yeah, don’t you know the difference between soliciting and asking?” “Yeah, you should be careful using big words.” There was sarcastic chuckling as the mob mentality started to set in.
Just to gauge this guy’s grasp of the English language I said, “Fine, stop panhandling.”
“There he goes again, using big words with four or more syllables. I’m not begging, I’m asking for change. Panhandling is begging. What an idiot.” There were more chuckles and remarks.
Obviously, this passenger and the others thought I didn’t know the difference in meaning between the words ask and solicit (which is nothing, they mean the same thing) or solicit and panhandling (which with certain nuances is only location-specific). But that was beside the point because our star passenger sensing that he had an audience continued on.
Someone finally gave him fifty cents and he came to the front of the bus to feed the fare-box. As he went back to his seat he proudly (and loudly) proclaimed, “I have a college degree in English and I used to be a professor. I taught English in college. I also have a degree in math.
I thought to myself, you must have missed the lecture on counting syllables.
He went on. “I know the definition of soliciting and people shouldn’t use big words they don’t know the meaning of.”
I finally had enough of this idiot, so after biting my tongue for what seemed like an eternity, I fired back. “So you have a degree in English and used to teach in college?”
“Yes. And I have a degree in math too.”
“That’s awesome. Hey, how many books have you written?”
“I’m reading Tolstoy.”
“Wow. But I didn’t ask you what books you’re reading; I asked you how many books you wrote as a college professor.” The bus quieted down a bit and as our star performer looked around, he realized that he had better come up with an answer because everyone was waiting.
“I wrote a book last week. Actually, I wrote two.”
Being a writer myself I know that writing a book, even a bad book, takes longer than a week. Writing two just means he’s more full of shit than if he only claimed to write one. His voice was starting to lose some of its confidence and I went in for the kill. But I didn’t take the obvious course of action by asking him about the title of his books or what the subject matter was.
Instead, I asked, “Since you were a college professor in English you should be able to answer a question for me. Would you please tell me, because I don’t know, what is a dangling participle? And would you please use multisyllabic words in the process so I can understand your explanation?” The bus went stone-cold quiet. The all-to-eager chucklers were now looking down trying to hide their faces.
We were approaching a bus stop and the bell rang. As soon as I stopped the bus and opened the door today’s star performer jumped out of his seat and made a beeline for the door. After he got off the bus he yelled a few profanities for my benefit. It didn’t bother me though; I simply closed the door—it was my turn to chuckle.
As I got underway I said to the rest of the passengers, “Pity he got off so soon. I didn’t get a chance to ask him my second question about the difference between quadratic and differential equations.” There were a handful of college students in the back of the bus, I heard them laugh.
And people wonder why the bus is late…